"From Novelty to Necessity: This exhibit takes you back 400 years to the time when COFFEE, TEA, and CHOCOLATE were first introduced in Europe." So reads a poster as you enter a fantastic art exhibit currently at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
"Bitter|Sweet: Coffee, Tea & Chocolate" offers excitement to all five senses, not just the usual museum-goers' activity of seeing art. As we toured the exhibit today, we looked at maps and historic information. We viewed a wide variety of paintings, prints, artifacts, and tableware related to the three beverages. We smelled some coffee beans in one display. We listened to the background music: Bach's Coffee Cantata. And in the final gallery we enjoyed tasting some historic chocolate concoctions.
Using my camera, the kind ticket-taker who admitted us to the exhibit even photographed us with our friends Elaine and Bob. On the gallery wall was a sign that said photography was not only permitted, it was encouraged. So...
|Large blow-up posters of early illustrations showed historic coffee drinking events.|
|Smelling and seeing coffee beans.|
|"Madame de Pompadour as a Sultana," by Carle Van Loo, 1755. Two women with different levels of power|
each have their hands on a cup of coffee, which was a new luxury product associated with the Turkish Empire.
"On the left, an African woman serving coffee is a reminder of two colonial commodities: coffee and enslaved people."
The exhibit had quite a few things to say about the role of slavery and colonialism in the rise of the three beverages.
|A coffee grinder that once belonged to Madame de Pompadour.|
|A porcelain sultan riding an elephant, and a little Turkish coffee cup.|
|A bust of Joseph Addison whose newspaper, I learned, was one of the influences|
encouraging English people to consume coffee.
|"The Strong Family," (1732, detail showing tea table)|
|The exhibit included several wall-sized maps.|
|An amazing Sèvres tea and coffee service (1842-43)|
|Samples of chocolate from early recipes.|
|Outside the DIA cafe where we were about to have lunch: chocolate Christmas decorations.|